THE BRIGHTEST hope for recovering part of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 is in an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) named Artemis, developed by US-based Bluefin Robotics.

The Artemis, a Bluefin-21, is being used in the search for the missing Boeing 777-200, believed at the time of going to press to have crashed into the Indian Ocean on 8 March.

The search, which started on 14 April, sees the AUV conduct a side-scan sonar over the sea floor, mapping 90 square kilometres per day. The vessel can reach depths of up to 4,500 metres
Contracted to the United States Navy through contractor Phoenix International, the Artemis has a high energy capacity allowing for extended operations at great depths, as well as being able to carry multiple sensors and payloads at once.

The vehicle design includes swappable payload sections and battery modules for in-field mission reconfiguration, with easily accessible subsystems allowing for rapid turnaround between missions and for in-field maintenance, accelerating operational tempo.

The AUV was deployed after the US Navy defined a search area using a Towed Pinger Locator system onboard Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield, from which the search is being conducted.

Phoenix is working on the search under its multi-year Undersea Operations contract with the US Naval Sea Systems Command’s Office of the Supervisor of Salvage and Diving for the provision of deep ocean search and recovery capabilities.

A multinational team from 26 countries including Malaysia, China, Australia, United States, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, India, and the UAE is carrying out the search for the missing plane.